ALAN v22n2 - From The Editors

Volume 22, Number 2
Winter 1995


The power of literature to transform ideas, experiences, and world views runs through the articles in this issue. As English teachers and librarians we see literature as a way of "opening" opportunities to see other people and their lives, to hear their opinions, and to feel their joys and pains. Young adult literature provides a mirror to view others and their lives.

In the lead article Marie Lee discusses the power of literature to educate about racism because through characters she can give voice to the pain caused by racial slurs. A character's private thoughts and feelings can show the effect in ways that real life cannot. Lee says that her books can do "what [she] as a person couldn't do." Similarly, Suzanne Fisher Staples hopes that "all good books about people who are different from us ... will inspire us to grow beyond our limits to learn understanding."

Another way that literature is transformative is that it helps readers consider themselves in relation to others. Three articles in this issue discuss YA novels that look at gender as an important element in understanding relationships. Two articles raise issues of young adult characters' relationships with religion.

But the power of literature can be used also as an argument against allowing books to "open up" the world to young readers. For this reason Nancy McCracken proposes that we rethink how we develop rationales for our selections. On a slightly different front, Lauren Myracle provides an excellent overview of the history of bibliotherapy, which, of course, is grounded in the belief that literature is transformative but which at the same time is problematic.